Pathological anti-Islam

For the last few weeks, we’ve learned, over and over again, why the burqa must be banned. A visible face is, apparently, central to Western modernity (which is why, one imagines, that new-fangled device known as the telephone will never catch on). Besides, outlawing the burqa is a feminist cause – to preserve women’s right to wear what they want, we must legislate so they can’t wear what they want. Or something.

You’d think that that the anti-burqa crowd would cheer the victory of Lebanese born Rima Fakih in the Miss USA contest. That pageant requires entrants to parade in swimsuits as well as evenings gowns. Fakih is a Muslim woman prepared to show rather more than her face. Good news, right?

Well, not so much. Today, the wingnut blogs are abristle with outrage.

Take it away, Debbie Schussel.

It’s a sad day in America but a very predictable one, given the politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate in which we’re mired. The Hezbollah-supporting Shi’ite Muslim, Miss Michigan Rima Fakih–whose bid for the pageant was financed by an Islamic terrorist and immigration fraud perpetrator–won the Miss USA contest.

Say what?

Schussel (a kind of low-rent Ann Coulter) links Fakih to Hezbollah largely on the basis that she was born in the ‘Hezbollah stronghold of Srifa in South Lebanon, which Israel was forced to attack in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war because it was a site of Hezbollah weaponry’. But she has also found a broader Muslim conspiracy, through which Hezbollah seeks to conquer the world, one beauty contest at a time.

Hezbollah has the chief USA bimbo. And they’ll use it. I don’t just wonder if this whole contest is rigged. I have a feeling that it is. Clearly, there is affirmative action for Muslim women in beauty pageants and other such “contests”.

Clearly, Schussel’s due for the jumper with wraparound sleeves. But she’s not alone.

Compare Daniel Pipes, one of the mostly widely quoted conservative writers on Islam, a regular columnist for the Australian, and someone who sees the burka as ‘doing immense damage to male/female and Muslim/non-Muslim relations’. He, too, sniffs a Miss USA plot.

[T]his surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.

Pipes, in some respects, goes further than Schussel, for in an addendum to his original post, he suggests that – wait for it! – the Nobel Prize might have suffered similar corruption.

This outbreak of craziness is trivial in itself, except that it illustrates the ongoing pathologisation of Islamophobia. Read Schussel’s piece again. If Muslims cover themselves entirely, they affront Western values. If they assimilate sufficiently to dance in strip clubs, they’re hiding their real agenda. Muslims’ politics can be determined from their relatives, with Islam now a biological rather than religious category; Muslims are clannish conspirators, who behind the scenes secretly control everything, pulling the strings to shape beauty contests and scientific awards alike.

Any of this seem familiar? What we are witnessing is the birth of an anti-Islam rhetoric that mimics, depressingly closely, the key tropes of twentieth-century anti-Semitism. It will not end well.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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  1. The mind boggles.

    I’d comment further, but I wouldn’t want to arouse suspicion or cause alarm. I’ll just go dig myself a hole and bury myself alive, instead.

  2. How ’bout Pru Goward’s piece on Drum yesterday?

    In an age of international terrorism, no one has the right to be anonymous and that includes women.

    Many Australians are offended by burkas and even by the headscarf. We are entitled to feel offended and to say so. I am. We are also entitled to ban them but it would be unwise.

    She claims she’s against a ban because women who wear the burqa are enslaved terrorists, and it’s normal to be terrified of anyone Muslim because it’s a matter of national security, before ending on something else about terrorism.

    ‘What we are witnessing is the birth of an anti-Islam rhetoric that mimics, depressingly closely, the key tropes of twentieth-century anti-Semitism. It will not end well.’

    Too frighteningly true.

  3. Its not going too great already. One might remember that the 1995 genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica happened in civilised Europe. The rather thuggish arguments of Goward – actually its more like a bawled opinion – as well as those of other public intellectuals people like Corey Bernardi often take the line that as liberty-seeking feminist thinkers they have a duty to strike a blow for the empowerment of women by advocating the banning of the burqa. Another main argument is that such blatant displays of religious fervour have no place in an enlightened western democracy. Curiously, both these arguments take place against a backdrop where the intrusion of right-wing clerics like Peter Jensen into political life is becoming normalised, and where feminism has now come to be benchmarked by how many women sit on a corporate board.
    Goward seems to have an even stronger fascist flavour than most with statements such as “In an age of international terrorism no-one has the right to remain anonymous” and “We are entitled to be offended.”
    It’s from the mouths of the understudies and creatures of political leaders that these alarm-bell-ringing ideas are sent forth to test the waters of opinion.
    Beauty contests: still delivering loaded political content after nearly a century.

  4. They can’t have it both ways: moan about Muslim women covering up, and then get sour grapes when Muslim women uncover themselves and are judged objectively more beautiful than their Anglo-American counterparts 🙂

  5. I think a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric can actually be traced back further. If you haven’t, you should read Leila Ahmed’s classic, Women and Gender in Islam to see the phenomenon of colonial feminism diagnosed – British colonising men who opposed women rights at home declaring their earnest desire to liberate Muslim women. *That’s* what’s familiar.

  6. Interesting post on the Guernica blog, which, because it’s short, I’ve pasted here:

    Talk about the male gaze. During his army service in Algeria from 1960 to ’62, French photographer Marc Garanger was made to photograph Algerian women for their ID cards. For the photos, the women were forced to remove their veils. (Sound familiar, given the present debate to ban the veil in France and Belgium?) Garanger, then 25, hated his task. But he was efficient: he took some 2,000 portraits in only 10 days. And he never got rid of the negatives.

    The portraits–black and white photos of women, young and old, whose expressions range from defiance to anger, humiliation to disgust–were shown in public for the first time at “Bodies in Question,” the exhibition curated by Fred Ritchin at New York’s Photo Festival. Garanger, who recently traveled to Algeria to meet with the very communities he’d photographed four decades ago, paired these portraits with large-scale color photos showing these same women surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

    What’s most striking about the Femmes Algérienne series is that it attempts to redeem the irredeemable: the abusive expression of absolute power by the colonizer over the colonized. That Garanger so artfully achieves this redemption–to the extent that such a thing is possible – is equally remarkable. And that he does so without succumbing to schlock, as do so many other expressions of creativity in the service of redemption, certainly makes him worthy of the festival’s 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.

  7. Lately it seems like the urge to be offended is more important than whether what is done is offensive. Women want to wear a headscarf or a burka; who gives a crap? Let them.

    This reminds me of a few years ago when school girls were forbidden to wear the headscarf because it was a symbol of religion. I thought that was okay, until I was told actually, the other girls were allowed to wear their christian crosses. Hypocrisy much?

  8. “Muslims’ politics can be determined from their relatives, with Islam now a biological rather than religious category”

    This applies even for non-Muslims with Muslim relatives – witness the right-wing suspicion over Barack Obama’s Indonesian upbringing and stepfather, and his father’s supposed Arab ancestry.

  9. Personally I am offended by the necktie. It should be banned.
    Though how would we laugh at politicians?

    I try to recall from out in the west nsw what i truly know about all this (thanks for the info!!!).

    I recall Arafat looking way more important than silly mate Bush and funny mate Yeltsin in their neckties. BUT we knew they were… what one might call yobbos… one a bit stupid, the other with a love of voldka. We knew that.

    On the other hand, the men of the Burqa, can we laugh at them? What are their silly faults?

    How can we ask the women to remove their burqas when it is not them we should be questioning… really!

    Do what you like my love, just watch your man… he’s not even funny.

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